How the Stranger Things Season 4 Finale Sets Up the End of the Series

10 minute read

The final episode of Stranger Things’ fourth season turned the whole world of the show upside-down, literally: the Upside Down has officially come to Hawkins. Although Netflix is planning on making spinoffs, the series will come to an end with the upcoming fifth and final season.

The Duffer Brothers, who created the series, have previously said they needed four or five seasons to tell the story they had in mind, and Netflix gave them five. While there are few details about what the final season will entail, the end of season 4 certainly left a lot of plot threads dangling, and there’s a lot of wrapping up that needs doing. Here’s a look at how the end of season 4 could set up the events of season 5.

What we know—so far—about Stranger Things season 5

Little is confirmed about Stranger Things season 5. Netflix officially renewed the show in February, but neither the release date or the length of the season have been revealed. It’s likely that the next season has yet to be written—Ross Duffer told Collider that the writing staff was “going to take a little vacation in July … And then we’re going to come back. I know that the writer’s room is going to start in that first week of August.” Filming will begin at some point after the scripts are written, though there’s no clue as to when that will be.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Duffer said that while the fifth season’s exact storyline is not yet mapped out, the team knows how the series will end. “While a lot of season 5 is actually pretty blurry, the last 30 minutes of it are pretty clear in our heads,” he said. “So if we can make the journey entertaining, I think that we have an end that will hopefully satisfy. You can’t satisfy everyone, but the hope is that it’s something that feels right for this story.”

In that same interview, Matt Duffer said the season will take place entirely in Hawkins, in contrast to the fourth season’s trips to California and the U.S.S.R., and that the cast breakdown would resemble that of season 1. “We wanna go back to a lot of the things we did in season 1,” he said. “There’s something nice about coming full circle.”

Eduardo Franco as Argyle, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers in 'Stranger Things'Courtesy of Netflix

Will there be a time jump in Stranger Things season 5?

The Duffer Brothers have previously teased the possibility of a time jump between the end of the fourth season and the start of the fifth season. “I’m sure we will do a time jump,” Ross Duffer told TVLine in June. While months had passed between previous seasons, the creators were reportedly looking at a larger gap in part because the actors playing 15-year-old high schoolers are increasingly in their early 20s and don’t really look the part anymore.

But the ending of season 5 makes the idea of a big time jump seem less likely. The season ends right as the Upside Down comes to Hawkins. To skip ahead a couple of years would be to gloss over what seems like a very immediate problem!

While speaking with EW in July, Matt Duffer seemed to say as much. While previous seasons had a slower build—the start of season 4 began with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) looking for a Dungeons & Dragons playmate and Lucas’ (Caleb McLaughlin) big basketball game—the main plot will already be in motion when season 5 starts.

“For the first time ever, we don’t wrap things up at the end of [season] 4, so it’s going to be moving,” Duffer said. “I don’t know that it’s going to be going 100 miles an hour at the start of 5, but it’s going to be moving pretty fast. Characters are already going to be in action. They’re already going to have a goal and a drive, and I think that’s going to carve out at least a couple hours and make this season feel really different.”

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in 'Stranger Things'Courtesy of Netflix

Eleven and the gang will need to deal with Vecna and the Upside Down incursion

The big reason why there probably won’t be a big time jump after all is also the single biggest season 4 plot development that sets up the show’s endgame in season 5. Although our heroes put up a valiant fight, Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) appears to have succeeded in his plan to unleash the Upside Down upon the world, and in doing so, pave the way for him to reshape reality as he sees fit.

Previously, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and co. fought against the Upside Down in secret. When they weren’t fighting Demogorgons, they were normal high schoolers. Their parents, with the exception of Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour), had no idea their kids were in grave danger fighting a supernatural threat. Now, though, it’s going to be hard to pretend otherwise. The Upside Down has invaded Hawkins, and that’s going to have to be dealt with out in the open.

And, for the first time, our heroes have a full understanding of just what sort of villain they’re facing. Robin (Maya Hawke), Steve (Joe Keery), and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) might have severely injured Vecna, and Eleven might have been able to best him in a psychic battle, but he has not been defeated. He’s still out there—and Wlil (Noah Schnapp) still has some sort of connection to him, a lingering effect of his possession by the Mind Flayer in season 2. Eleven might be the only person strong enough to stop Vecna, but is she strong enough or does she still have more to learn, as Doctor Brenner (Matthew Modine) insisted before his death?

Additionally, after a fourth season that had some characters in sunny California and another in Soviet prison, all the main players are in Hawkins when the season ends.

Max may or may not wake up from her coma

Although Eleven was able to bring Max (Sadie Sink) back to life after she died as a result of Vecna’s possession, her friend is still in bad shape. Eleven managed to stop Vecna before he could make her eyeballs explode like his three previous victims, but her limbs were all still mangled and her eyes milky white and bloody. Max ends the season alive, again, but she’s in the hospital and the doctors aren’t sure if she’ll ever wake up. Eleven can’t even find her when she uses her powers to reach out into Max’s mind. The final season will need to address Max’s fate, one way or another. (If there isn’t a time jump, don’t expect to see Max up and about even if she does wake up. Her arms and legs are all pretty busted.)

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner in 'Stranger Things'Tina Rowden—Netflix

The military might still be after Eleven

Early in season 4, we learned that there are two governmental factions with very different views on how to deal with Eleven and the threat of the Upside Down. One, spearheaded by Doctor Owens (Paul Reiser) and the late Doctor Brenner, thinks Eleven is their only chance at stopping the Upside Down. The other, led by Lt. Colonel Jack Sullivan (Sherman Augustus), thinks Eleven is the cause of all the chaos and must be destroyed. Sullivan and his forces attacked their rivals in the penultimate episode of season 4, killing Brenner and taking Owens prisoner, but Eleven got away. Now that the Upside Down has come to the real world, it remains to be seen what the army will do next—and whether or not they still view Eleven as a threat to be eliminated or an asset to use in the fight against the supernatural unknown.

Some love triangles need closure

The big scares and epic sci-fi plots are only part of why people like Stranger Things so much. Fans love these characters and the relationships they have with one another, and the Season 4 finale certainly sets up some interpersonal dynamics that will presumably be addressed in the final season.

Joyce and Hopper have been reunited and finally kissed, so hopefully, the season will have a chance to let them just be happy, even if it’s only for a little bit. Lucas reconciled his relationship with Max, but her injuries have put their future in serious doubt. Robin appears to have hit it off with her bandmate/crush Vickie (Amybeth Mcnulty), and there’s hope that Vickie might be into her, too, despite the risks of being a lesbian in 1980s Indiana.

The last two episodes continued to build toward a coming-out plotline for Will. First, there was the moment where Will gets unexpectedly emotional after telling his longtime friend Mike that he’s the heart of their group and that Eleven needs him. (Does Will have feelings for Mike that he knows can never be, or is there something else going on?) Then, in the finale, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) senses that Will has something he needs to get off his chest, and commits to being a better big brother who will always be there to listen.

Jonathan is involved in the other big bit of relationship drama season 4 sets up for season 5. Jonathan spent months between season 3 and 4 in his new California home, away from his girlfriend Nancy in Hawkins. Though the two had plans to attend Emerson College in Massachusetts together, Jonathan’s not sure he wants to put his family in debt to go, nor does he want Nancy to give up on her dreams and follow him to a community college instead. It’s a valid concern, but rather than communicate any of this to Nancy, Jonathan just lies to her and gets high instead. Meanwhile, Nancy and Steve—who she was dating back in season 1—have some seriously renewed chemistry, and they get very close to one another while battling Vecna. Steve is clearly into Nancy, but he isn’t about to directly get between her and Jonathan. Neither Nancy nor Jonathan seem super secure with their relationship. Season 5 seems like it’s going to have a good ol’ fashioned love triangle.

Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair, Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, and Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield in 'Stranger Things'Courtesy of Netflix

Some Stranger Things characters are probably going to die

Finally, the season 4 finale doesn’t directly mark any characters for death in the fifth and final season—save perhaps for Doctor Owens, who might already be dead, and Max, who is in a state of limbo. That said, it certainly feels like there’s going to be a body count in the final season. The show has killed off major characters before, like Brenner and Eddie (Joseph Quinn) this season, but all of the core protagonists from the first season are still around. If the Upside Down is stronger and more dangerous than ever going into season 5, it seems likely that not all of our heroes will make it.

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